Over winter break, I went to London with the University Scholars program.
In order to go along, you had to work on a research project while you
were there. I was a broadcast/cable major, and I had decided that my
undergraduate honors thesis would be a comparison of two comedy schools:
the Oxbridge Mafia in Great Britain and the Second City Players in the
United States. So this meant that I had a solid research proposal for
Among my research related activities in London were dropping off letters
at both Michael Palin and John Cleese's business offices, requesting
interviews. I also did research in the archives of the Independent Broadcasting
Authority, which had press clippings going back decades. I got temporary
lending privileges from the local library and read several seminal books,
including Graham Chapman's A Liar's Autobiography, taking copious
I listened to comedy tapes from The Goon Show, The Two Ronnies
and Tony Hancock, which I understood to be influences on the Oxbridge
way to Stonehenge, I read most of Beyond the Fringe... And Beyond,
a comprehensive history of 1960s British comedy.
Stonehenge was cool, too.
I never heard anything from Michael Palin's office, John Cleese's office
called to say that he wouldn't be available for an interview in the
window I had. I took it as a victory that I even got a reply.
I spent a day at the National Sound Archives, listening to recordings
until my ears were sore, such as I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again
(with John Cleese), Hancock's Half Hour, The Goon Show,
Once Moore with Cook (Dudley Moore and Peter Cook), and That
Was the Week That Was.
Program nerds loved nothing better than a good book shop, and I returned
with quite a few Monty Python books, the British printings, of course.
Fortunately, I'd nested a smaller suitcase inside my larger one on the
way here (a tip from our advisor).
and I also visited the Museum of the Moving Image, which had quite a
few displays dedicated to Monty Python, including some materials Terry
Gilliam had used to make his animations. I was in heaven. That is, until
I caught a severe cold. But hey, it was a British cold.